Understanding Stepmum Stereotypes
Step families are becoming the new normal today. According to Wednesday Martin author of Step Monster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do, one out of three people could be a step in some sort; either a stepchild, stepparent or step sibling. Despite this nothing much seems to have changed of the wicked stepmother label. This article addresses some of the step mum myths.
The contemporary Disney channel production – The Snow White and the Parents Trap – has indirectly been one of the major influencers to the stereotypes most stepmothers face today.
Some of these stereotypes contribute to further destruction of the relationship between a stepmother and her stepchildren. Most stepmothers relate to these stereotypes. Here are some you might want to think about before you start believing in them.
Stepmothers are tougher on their stepchildren
Stepmothers are often accused of giving preferential treatment to their biological children and ignoring or mistreating their stepchildren. While this may be true in some cases, it is equally important to understand the dynamics that surround the step-relationship.
Stepchildren tend to feel left out when another woman is brought to their home as they may feel the person is out to replace the memory of their lost or absent mother.
In some instances they tend to approach this situation cautiously and sometimes aggressively for the fear of being treated unfairly in their own home.
Unconsciously they may use any opportunity to defend themselves and their interest even when there is nothing to defend them against. It is equally important to put yourself in a stepmother’s shoes because often a stepmother is the stuck outsider in the stepfamily and struggles to find her footing within this newfound family.
Stepmothers are home wreckers and bad for your children
This is an assumption commonly referred to because it goes against the ideal perception of a nuclear African family. The reality is the rate of divorce and re-marriage has been on an increase over the years.
The truth is that what causes harm to children is parental conflict not having a stepmother or dad. Research confirms that often children with behavioral and emotional problems after divorce started having these problems long before divorce took place as a result of parental conflict.
Stepmothers are therefore sometimes victims of circumstances. They tend to be the easiest to blame for divorce and for bad behaviour of their step children when in actual fact the strain on one’s marriage, as well as some of the behavioral and emotional behaviour exhibited by their step children were present way before the step mum was even in the picture.
It is all up to the stepmother to win over her stepchildren
Befriending stepchildren and getting along is a concerted effort that requires the input of all parties involved.
Often this is an ongoing process that takes years. Even so, it requires the support and patience of all parties involved. It is even better if a stepmother gets some support from her stepchildren’s mother if she is alive.
While the two do not necessarily need to be friends, they can be cordial and respectful of each other. Children tend to reflect the mindsets their parents and show them through their actions and choice of words.
Many times when there is conflict between a stepmother and a stepchild, a look at their biological parents may give one an understanding as to why the situation is that way.
In some cases you will find that the biological parent is giving their child subtle messages that it is okay, perhaps even required, to keep an emotional or physical distance from their stepmother.
It will take a mindset and relational shift to create a new standard for stepmothers, one that is less inspired by evil stepmother myths and more reflective of the dedicated, loving women who are willing to sacrifice their own fantasy of a storybook romance (as no young girl casts herself as the stepmother in her wedding dreams) to step into a ready made family with the person she loves. The task is up to each one to try and change the negative step-mum perceptions.